DISSIDENT Republicans are judged more of a threat to Britain than Islamic terror groups, according to senior intelligence chiefs.Last weekend it was claimed that MI5 surveillance experts had determined that the Real IRA and the Continuity IRA currently pose a bigger danger to the British state than Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaeda.It is understood that two-thirds of all current MI5 wire taps and other covert surveillance is geared towards tracking the activities of dissident Republicans.The spying revelation comes weeks after Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Hugh Orde warned that the threat from dissident Republicans remained at an all time high.In June dissidents tried to kill two police officers with a landmine in Co. Fermanagh. The police officers' lives were only saved by the fact that the detonator on the huge landmine only partially exploded.In the last eight months dissidents have tried to kill police officers on five different occasions.Last weekend it was reported that at least 80 hardcore dissidents were actively involved in planning gun and bomb attacks against the police.MI5's current Director General Jonathan Evans is a veteran of anti-terrorist operations in Northern Ireland.In 2006 it was revealed that MI5 had spent $40 million building a major regional headquarters outside Belfast.Up to 400 intelligence agents are based at the center, which focuses on decoding and eavesdropping on telephone and email traffic from suspected Islamists.A smaller number work with the PSNI in countering Republican groups.In 2007 it was announced that MI5 was taking over the lead role in intelligence gathering from the PSNI in Northern Ireland.In recent years MI5's international counterpart, MI6, has successfully thwarted a number of dissident Republican arms networks in eastern Europe.It is claimed that both the Real IRA and Continuity IRA are determined to kill a Catholic police officer in the hope of deterring young Nationalists from joining the PSNI.Dissidents are believed to have increased their targeting of prison officers in recent months.Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has insisted that the rise in dissident violence is a sign that the RIRA and CIRA fear that the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Stormont assembly will take away support for them."I don't think it is by chance that we're seeing more dissident violence than we have at any time over the last four to five years," he said."They think their time is running out and they're right, their time is running out because they don't belong in the new Northern Ireland."
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